Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | January 19, 2014

Cordia’s Review – S7, E12 – Potential

Potential
Season 7, Episode 12
Original airing: 1/12/2003

My Rating: 63

The Good: This episode was a definite step up from the past five or so as we got to spend some time with a few people instead of jumping around amongst a cast of 10 or so people for thirty seconds each. It also finally spent some time with one of the potentials which highlighted for me how needed that has been.

I thought Dawn’s isolation was incredibly well done. From venturing ignored suggestions during training, being the only one still going to school, up to being the only girl under 20 in that house with any real demon experience – she’s different from the potentials. And she feels unsurprisingly left out by her big sister. It’s heartbreaking to think back to the beginning of this season when Buffy was so determined to teach Dawn how to protect herself. Now she hasn’t got the time or apparent inclination.

Dawn’s handling of her potential-ness was quite good as well. Her immediate concerns are the realization of the danger and that she’ll never reach her potential without Buffy dying. I thought it worked for her to want to be alone in her room. It didn’t come across to me as sulking or hiding, just needing a moment. Things went downhill when she climbed out the window (see The Bad).

However, she redeemed herself at the end by recognizing Amanda as the potential and encouraging her to stand up and fight. Giving away her chance to be special in that moment was powerful for a character like Dawn who has had issues in the past with feeling ignored. And, of course, it was wonderful to see her decision acknowledge by Xander (see Favorite Moment).

Dawn’s foil in this episode was the slow introduction of the newest potential. Amanda was brought in as lost, awkward, confused, and helpless. Then she flipped the script and turned out to be a staff-wielding master. While I didn’t take to her or her presentation personally, I really appreciated the show’s attempt to spend some time with a potential before she knows what is going on. As Willow says, someone’s life has just changed majorly. It was nice to see that moment.

The Bad: Unfortunately, the middle of Dawn’s story was a horrifying pile-up of stupid Dawn moments. It felt like we were back in the early days when she just wanted to be involved and continually made things worse. At this point in her knowledge and development, there is no excuse for her to climb out her window in the middle of the night without even a stake to protect herself. She knows the Bringers are out there. She assumes they’re now after her. And yet… off into the darkness empty handed she goes.

Her decision making at the school is particularly poor and just goes on and on. Please enjoy the following list.

  • Dawn decides to go after Amanda’s vampire solo.
  • She doesn’t even attempt to inform Buffy or the other Scoobies.
  • She, in fact, encourages Amanda to come with her WITHOUT informing anyone else.
  • She doesn’t try to be sneaky or silent during their entrance to the school.
  • She still doesn’t have any kind of weapon.
  • During the chase, she’s screaming instructions to Amanda concerning where they should go and how to defend themselves.
  • She doesn’t seem to actually have a plan when the vampire breaks in.
  • She arms herself with a broken bit of wood, then swings it like a baseball bat instead of jabbing at the vampire’s chest.
  • Her “plan” after hitting the floor is to scream for help.

The one thing she does right is give Amanda a timely pep talk and a bit of broken wood.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Spike seem determined to put on a show for a bunch of 15 year old girls. I thought Spike’s uncomfortableness in the graveyard was from Buffy straddling him, but I’m sure it got worse when she tried to take off his shirt. The “that’s so hot” comments from the girls were especially grating and out of place.

The reappearance of Clem was awkward. When did he and Buffy bond to the point of hugging and Tivo’ing things for each other? And where did he get those snakes in his face?

But what bothered me the most after Dawn’s failures, was Buffy’s decision to lock the potentials into a crypt with a baby vampire. After her experiences with the Watcher’s Council, I just can’t see her putting them in this kind of danger. Stepping back and letting them fight, sure. Stepping outside where they could suffer a broken neck before she hears the scream…. Not so much.

It was particularly irksome after the first scene of the episode featured a Buffy Speech concerning how the potentials didn’t possess any actual Slayer gifts yet. They don’t have super strength, healing, speed, durability… anything. So how is this different from the Cruciamentum she was so against in Season Three? Not to mention, at that time she was 18 with three years of full Slayer experience. These girls are 15 with no experience. Unfair, Buffy. Unfair.

Favorite Moment: Xander shows Dawn he knows just how she feels and addresses his own position within the Scoobies for the last seven years. As he points out, even Oz could work the powerful mojo once a month. Xander’s been nothing but human the whole time and that’s been hard. But it’s good and worth it and it makes both himself and Dawn extraordinary people for going on in the face of impossible situations.

The Bottom Line: The episode benefits from slowing down and focusing on Dawn and Amanda. Despite my issues with the character motivations, I found myself engaged and interested. But there were still quite a few issues present with the decision making of our main characters that left a sour taste after the credits rolled. I don’t know if I can take this as a ray of hope for the future or not.

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Responses

  1. Clem and Buffy weren’t BFFs, but in Season 6, he WAS at her Birthday Party That Wouldn’t End and Xander’s & Anya’s Wedding Debacle. Plus, Buffy chose to put Dawn temporarily under Clem’s protection after Spike left town and Willow went all veiny.

    I think that kinda warrants a growing acquaintance and even rapport between the two of them. So, TIVOing and hugs? Why not? 😉


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